Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
We'll enjoy life more if we don't go overboard. In this week's Torah portion (Deut. 21:20) we learn that gluttony - overindulging in food and drink - often leads to unhappiness. The Torah wants us to enjoy life to the max - by enjoying it in moderation.
In our story, a couple of kids discover that too much of a good thing ... isn't such a good thing after all.
"Mike! Cindy!" their mother called out. The two kids came running downstairs. "I'm going out now and will be back this evening."
"No problem, Mom," Cindy said. "After all, kids our age even baby-sit for other people. Certainly we can take care of ourselves."
"I know that. Anyway, you know how to reach me if you need me. Just remember to feed the goldfish. And also, I'm not going to be here to make you lunch and dinner. Will you be able to help yourselves to something to eat?"
As their mom was getting her car keys out of her purse, the brother and sister exchanged wide-eyed grins that she didn't see.
"Oh ... yeah," Mike said. "I think we'll be able to manage."
With that, the kids' mom left. The two of them watched her car pull out of the driveway.
"Four..." counted out Mike with a conspiratorial smile.
"Three..." Cindy answered, grinning.
"Two..." Mike said.
"One..." Cindy laughed...
"RAID!!!" they both yelled out and sprinted to the kitchen.
Cupboards flew open ... then the fridge and freezer. Soon the kitchen table was bending under the weight of caches of cookies, a salty sea of snacks, glaciers of ice cream, and soft drinks in every color of the rainbow.
The kids - who'd been waiting a long time for this chance to munch-out to their hearts' content - dug in like bulldozers at a construction site.
"Hey this is great, huh?" Mike said between gargantuan gobbles.
"Yeah, I feel like I'm in an ice-cream dream!" Cindy nodded from behind her gooey sundae that looked big enough to last 'til Tuesday.
Little by little, the mountain on the table shrunk - and the ones in the kids' stomachs grew.
"Y'know, I'm getting kinda full," Mike said, blinking.
"Yeah, me too," agreed Cindy. "D'ya think maybe we should stop?"
The two kids looked at each other and then the legions of luscious leftovers in front of them...
"Naw!" they both said together, laughing, and like soldiers on a search-and-destroy mission, the pair plowed on until the battlefield, er ... table, was cleared.
"Ugh ... I can hardly move!" Mike groaned, his head resting on the table
"Tell me about it," said Cindy, sprawled out over two chairs, "but, guess what? We forgot to feed the fish."
"Oh, yeah," Mike said "Better do it..."
The overstuffed kids, holding their stomachs, somehow waddled over to the fish tank. Mike lifted the shaker of fish food.
"Remember," Cindy said, "they only get two shakes."
"Yeah, I know that," Mike said, as he shook the food in carefully. "The guy in the pet store said if you give them too much food it's bad for them since they don't know when to stop. They'll eat 'til they go belly up. Dumb fish, huh?"
"Yeah, real dumb," Cindy agreed.
Suddenly the two kids looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
"You know what, Cind," Mike said, belching, "I don't think we're any smarter than those fish are."
The girl nodded behind her grimace. "I know what you mean. But at least they have someone telling them when to stop! Maybe from now on we should start telling ourselves that, too."
Q. How did the kids feel when they first started to eat?
A. They felt like it was great to be able to have all they wanted.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They felt bad that they overdid it.
Q. What life-lesson do you think the kids learned that day?
A. When their mom went away and they had free run of the kitchen, the kids thought it would be great to eat as many treats as they could. But when they overdid it and felt sick, they realized that they'd have been much happier if they'd held back and eaten less.
Q. Was it wrong of the kids to have helped themselves to snacks?
A. No. Their mother didn't say they couldn't, and a few nice snacks could have been a fun part of a fun day. But their mistake was going wild with it, instead of enjoying themselves in moderation.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think it's harder to abstain entirely from something enjoyable or to enjoy it in moderation?
A. Surprisingly, it's harder to be moderate. Human nature has no trouble swinging to extremes - either feast or fast - but, although it takes training, the key to a balanced, fulfilling life is to learn how to stick to a middle path of enjoying the good things of life, without getting carried away with, and by them.
Q. Do you think there is any kind of pleasure that is healthy to indulge in without limit?
A. While physical pleasures - eating, sleeping, etc. - are only healthy in moderation, spiritual pleasures - such as appreciating life, learning wisdom, etc. - can be happily indulged in without limit.